Metal water pipes can cause electric shock

If you are working on metal water pipes you must be aware of the risk of electric shock. Under normal conditions, electricity supplied to a building will return to the local substation transformer via the neutral conductor. However, under certain fault conditions, metal water pipes may provide the return electrical path instead of the neutral conductor.

Any work involving metal pipes could be a risk – this includes repairing or replacing metal pipes and installing water meters. Before you start this kind of work, plan and follow a safe system of work to prevent or minimise the risk of electric shock.

The safe system of work you use should suit the particular situation and should include the following procedures:

  • Plan the job by assessing electrical and other risks and taking suitable steps to stay safe.
  • Where possible, switch off the electrical main switch, or switches, at the premises and attach a tag reading ‘DANGER DO NOT SWITCH ON’.
  • Wear gloves and long trousers to avoid skin contact with metallic water pipes being worked on.
  • Thoroughly clean the section of metal pipe on each side of the length being repaired.
  • If a metallic service pipe is to be replaced by non-metallic pipe or fittings, have the electrical installation checked by a licensed electrical contractor and modified if necessary to ensure the electrical earthing system for the premises remains effective.
  • Notify the local electricity distributor and the householder immediately if you see anything abnormal such as electric sparks or you feel an electric shock.

For more information visit or telephone 1300 650 662.